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Got the kit ready. Tiny shoes, mud traces, spotty helmet, Lilliputian gloves, a bike shiny and clean.

The car is loaded. An hour’s drive. We chat freely. Race tactics, unanswerable questions, the merits of minecraft.

Nose pressed to glass, she scours the car park, excitedly spots friends and disappears on her bike. Too few layers of course, an 8 year old knows best.

I register her. Collect the number. Pin it to her back. “COME ON DAD!”. Inpatience and eagerness fuelled by endorphins.

Endless muddy laps. An hour’s warm up for a 12 minute race. “Oi! Jacket on!”. “Come and have a drink!”. “Save something for later!”

Nerves.

Gridding.

Frenetic start.

A maelstrom of wheels and mud and drifting through corners, crunching through gears, ploughing through puddles, the heavens open as parents and supporters cower ‘neath brollies and club bobble hats and hide in the folds of  toasty arctic jackets.

  

Then it’s over.

I wrap her up. Every which way. Blow on frozen hands. Hold them in mine, rub her back, hug her close, warm layers added, helmet swopped for wool. Club colours of course.

Time for hot food and play, basking in a post race glow.

I watch them run around. Kids being kids, splashing in mud puddles, playing tag, boundless energy that never fails to surprise.

Pack the kit away. Tiny shoes, mud splattered, spotty helmet, Lilliputian gloves, filthy bike my next task.

(It dawned on me recently, that my role as a parent and coach far outweighs the importance of my own racing. It’s somebody else’s turn now….)

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